I’m naturally drawn to landscapes and wildlife. As a person, I love being in nature and out on grand adventures, even when I’m not taking photos. That being said, it’s only natural for me to want to take photographs of those things. While most of my travels take me to places like National Parks and expansive areas of wilderness, I do find myself roaming city streets on occasion. For example, I’ve spent the last month exploring Tokyo, Japan–one of the biggest, most populated cities in the world.
To say I found myself out of my photography comfort zone is a bit of an understatement. I met the challenge, of course, with enthusiasm and perhaps a bit too much confidence in my abilities. On day one, I rushed out of my hotel room, camera in hand, ready to capture the best street photos anyone has ever seen. Needless to say, I was greatly disappointed when I got back and looked at my photos. They weren’t awful, but they were definitely lacking. I sat back and went through the shots, one by one, examining each closely to see what I would have done in hindsight to make them better.
Needless to say, I was greatly disappointed when I got back and looked at my photos. They weren’t awful, but they were definitely lacking. I sat back and went through the shots, one by one, examining each closely to see what I would have done in hindsight to make them better. Here are few key tips I learned during that process.
Aperture Is Important
I admit, I love shooting on narrow apertures. I have a couple fast prime lenses in my arsenal and I just love the way the bokeh looks when I’m at f1.8. But in street photography, wide apertures are not your friend. Given the nature of the game–you have very little time to compose your shots, much less find focus–if you’re shooting on a wide aperture, you’re going to miss more shots than you’re going to get. I found setting my camera to f8 was a great way to ensure most of my frame would be in focus without having to sacrifice too much of my lenses speed.
Seeing Into The Future Is Helpful
Being able to spot moments before they happen can make or break street shots. It’s all about that decisive moment, that split second in time when a moment has reached it’s peak interestingness. If you can train yourself to predict those moments before they actually happen, you’ll be able to spare yourself a few extra seconds to prepare your camera for the shot. Words can’t express how helpful even two extra seconds to prepare can be.
So make sure you’re paying attention and watching for the interesting bits. In many ways, this is a lot like wildlife photography.
One of the biggest limitations I unknowingly created for myself was constantly being on the move. I was in the city, I wanted to walk around and look for the most vibrant scenes to shoot. The problem was, I probably walked right by more shots than I even noticed. On my second day of shooting, I found myself a nice bench to sit on at a busy intersection in a vibrant, hip part of town where I knew interesting things were bound to happen all day.
I was right! I sat there for a couple hours and had absolutely no shortage of different things and people to take photos of. So while you need to be able to predict moments (see above), that doesn’t mean you necessarily need to be actively walking around and seeking them out. Watch the one’s that right there in front you!
Shattering Comfort Zones
Hopefully, you’re able to use these tips to try something out of your own comfort zone. I think that’s a major part of progressing our skills as photographers–trying new things and pushing ourselves to learn new things. In fact, one of the things I’m most looking forward to is seeing how my new found appreciation of street photography impacts the quality of my landscape and wildlife photography.